Archive of January 21, 2013

Berlin archdiocese undergoing significant restructuring

Berlin, Germany, Jan 21, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki has finalized plans to cut the number of churches in the Archdiocese of Berlin by over 70 percent in seven years.

The archdiocese's 105 churches will be reduced to 30 parishes by 2020, he told Katholische Nachrichten Agentur in a Jan. 16 interview.

This decision, originally unveiled in a pastoral letter on Dec. 2, will affect 400,000 Catholics in northeast Germany.

This means an average reduction of 11 churches a year in an area that includes Berlin, Brandenburg and Mecklenberg-Vorpommern. 

"This isn't just an administrative reform, it's also a spiritual one," said archdiocesan spokesman Stefan Forner.

In September, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn also decided to slash 510 churches in his Vienna archdiocese, reducing its number of parishes from 660 to 150.

The cuts in the Berlin archdiocese are not the first the Church has gone through. Cardinal Georg Sterzinsky, the predecessor of Cardinal Woelki, halved the number of parishes six years ago because of the archdiocese's $140 million debt, following the reunification of East and West Germany. 

With the number of current churches, each one should be offering Sunday Mass to an average of 3,810 parishioners, if all the archdiocese's Catholics are practicing their faith.

But after the reduction to 30 parishes, each church will need to serve an average of 13,333 faithful.

Cardinal Woelki said the aim is to give the archdiocese a "sustainable structure."

He wrote to local communities telling them the decision was taken based on the "future development process and population decline."  

According to the cardinal, church members will decrease by 30 percent in some regions over the next 17 years.

But Cardinal Woelki also said the decision was not made because of a money or personnel shortage, according to KNA.

The restructuring plan also includes the unusual provision that each new parish priest will be exempt from administrative tasks.

The archdiocese wants to have "larger pastoral areas" which will mean the remaining parishes will need to cooperate more closely in the coming years in Catholic education and carrying out charitable work.

Cardinal Woelki said in his pastoral letter that the archdiocese's finances had improved thanks to "courageous and responsible decisions" by Church institutions.

But he added that Catholic schools, hospitals, elderly homes and nurseries would also be reduced to reflect a "diaspora experience."

Eighty percent of the area's Catholics live in Berlin, a city which received a $39 million aid package from other Catholic dioceses in 1999.

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Pope's secretary did not pose for 'Vanity Fair' photo

Vatican City, Jan 21, 2013 (CNA) - A source at the Vatican says that Archbishop Georg Ganswein – the prefect of the Papal Household and personal secretary of Pope Benedict XVI – did not pose for the latest cover of “Vanity Fair” and that his image was published in the latest Italian edition without his consent.

The most recent cover in the country features the face of 56-year-old Archbishop Ganswein with a caption that says, “It’s not a sin to be handsome,” and calls him, “The George Clooney of St. Peter's.”

“Archbishop Ganswein had nothing to do with the cover and had not been informed about it at all, and consequently, he had not given any approval or collaboration,” the source told CNA.

The picture on the cover was taken in 2010 by photographer Daniel Biskup at Castelgandolfo. “Vanity Fair” included a short paragraph on the personal life of Archbishop Ganswein signed by Vatican watcher Andrea Tornielli, which included several statements the archbishop has made to the press in the past. Archbishop Ganswein has never granted an interview to the magazine.

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Cardinal says MLK's witness shows need for cultural conscience

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The momentous life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., indicate the important role of faith as the conscience of society, said Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, D.C.

“The voice of the Church is the voice reminding us of all the things we ought to do,” said the cardinal at the archdiocese’s annual Mass celebrating the life and legacy of the historic civil rights leader.

The Jan. 19 Mass at Jesus the Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Owings, Md., was preceded by a concert including Gospel music, spirituals and traditional Catholic music.

The cardinal’s homily focused on the theme of the Church as the “conscience of the state.”

“Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a voice crying out in the wilderness,” he said. “His was a voice however that was rooted in faith – faith in God – faith in Christ.”  

Cardinal Wuerl lamented “all of the confusion, self-centered lifestyle, violence, lack of compassion and even hatred” present in modern society.

“From the very beginning, human beings individually and collectively have a track record of placing ourselves at the center, too often oblivious to the needs and even the rights of others,” he said.

“It began with Cain and Abel and has continued on to events as recent as the senseless shootings and killings in multiple parts of our country.”

Yet amid all of this, he continued, “the voice of religion, the voice of faith, the voice of the Church, has been a constant beacon in the darkness, a light for those seeking the right path and a support to those who have nowhere else to turn.”

This faith was embodied in the quiet, peaceful witness of King, testifying that all men have equal rights because they are children of God, he explained.

“His was a voice that resounded with the cadences of prophetic proclamation and the images of Sacred Scripture,” the cardinal said, noting that this faithfulness to the Gospel was able to evangelize “a culture where racism was rampant and devaluing others the order of the day.”
Cardinal Wuerl called believers to take responsibility for the nation’s future by following the great civil rights leader’s example of countercultural witness.

Christians must be the conscience of modern society, he said, pointing to how King reminded the nation “that an unjust law was no law.”
“We need to bring our moral values and vision to the marketplace,” the cardinal said. “Otherwise public policy would soon have no moral coherence – and no moral authority.”

In addition to remembering the life of the civil rights advocate, the annual Martin Luther King, Jr., Mass celebrates the vibrant heritage of Black Catholics in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.

Deacon Al Turner, director of the archdiocese’s Office of Black Catholics, observed that the Mass is a call to discipleship and evangelization for people of every race and background.

He explained that it “celebrates the spirit of faithful witness to social justice issues that we are all called to be as we live the Christian life.”

“We celebrate the legacy of this martyr for the Gospel, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for his willingness to stand up for the rights and the dignity of the human person,” the deacon explained in a statement announcing the Mass. “That is what Jesus teaches all believers to do.”

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Pope selects American priest for rare St. Peter's job

Vatican City, Jan 21, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - For the first time in the 21st century, Pope Benedict XVI has made an American priest a canon of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

"You're the first of this century and the first of this millennium," said Cardinal Angelo Comastri during the Jan. 20 celebration for Monsignor Francis D. Kelly.

"This is a celebration of fidelity, and fidelity is maintaining during the whole life the commitment pronounced in your youth," he added in St. Peter's Basilica, referring to Msgr. Kelly's priesthood of 50 years.

Pope Benedict XVI announced his new role in an Oct. 20 decree, giving the 76-year-old the primary tasks of prayer and worship. A canon is a senior priest who is responsible for the celebration of the sacred liturgy at the Vatican basilica and for maintaining a prayerful presence in the place where St. Peter is buried. They lead the recitation of evening prayers and concelebrate Mass on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. as well as on major feast days.

There are 24 canons in St. Peter's Basilica, and with the addition of Msgr. Kelly, they will represent 10 countries.

Cardinal Comastri said that his representation of the United States is "a beautiful sign of the catholicity of the Church."

Before Msgr. Kelly there were two U.S.-born priests who were made canons in the 20th century -- Msgr. William Anthony Hemmick and Archbishop Martin O'Connor.

As he prepared to take on his new role and before his installation, Msgr. Kelly celebrated a Mass at Casa Santa Maria, a residence for American priests who studying in Rome, where he has served as the superior for the last eight years.

"It was a beautiful Mass and very meaningful for me," he said.

"I had the privilege to be the principal celebrant and share with them my great gratitude to God for his extraordinary goodness to me in carrying me through these 50 years of priesthood.

"The priesthood is the most extraordinary adventure, privilege and satisfying lifestyle that anyone could be called to," Msgr. Kelly told CNA.

"As I look back I'm just so grateful to God, and I'm very conscience that it was God who chose me, because I didn't choose this," he reflected.

"From the time I was an adolescent, I knew that was what I wanted to do," he added.

His installation at the Canons Chapel in the basilica included about 300 people.

During the ceremony Msgr. Kelly was taken to the seat where he will be praying and worshiping from now on.

"I was highly honored to have five American cardinals present for the ceremony, my own priest from Casa Santa Maria, and many other friends I've made here in Rome," said Msgr. Kelly.

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Obama says 'gay marriage' necessary for national progress

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - As he entered his second term as U.S. President, Barack Obama stressed the need to modernize American values through changes such as a redefinition of marriage.

The American journey “is not complete,” Obama said on Jan. 21, until gay individuals have their unions “treated like anyone else under the law.”

He argued that “gay marriage” is necessary for equality, “for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”

In his second inaugural address, the president promoted “same-sex marriage” as a basic civil right, such as those that women and African Americans fought for throughout history.

Obama discussed the need to “defend our people and uphold our values” while moving forward on a “never-ending journey” of progress.

Americans have always been united by “our allegiance to an idea,” he said, but “we have always understood that when times change, so must we.”

Citing assertions by the Declaration of Independence that all men are “endowed by their Creator” with the rights of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” Obama stressed the need “to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time.”

While acknowledging that “freedom is a gift from God,” he added that fidelity to our founding documents “does not mean we will all define liberty in exactly the same way.”

The president pointed to the progress that the nation has made in the areas of slavery, infrastructure and education. To continue in this progress, he said, America must promote cultural values, such as “care for the vulnerable” and an acceptance of gay “rights.”

He also emphasized the need for cooperation, particularly on subjects such as the struggling economy and immigration reform.

Absent from Obama’s speech – delivered just one day before the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade – was any mention of abortion. Also missing was any reference to the controversial contraception mandate that has attracted lawsuits from more than 100 plaintiffs across the country.

Instead, the president focused on the need to constantly advance “those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice.”

He praised the “star” of equality that guided the American forbearers at “Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall,” likening the gay advocacy riots to the historic milestones in the movements for women’s suffrage and civil rights.

Obama’s support of same-sex “marriage” was hailed by gay advocacy groups last May when he became the first sitting president to endorse such unions.

Controversy over the president’s stance on marriage was recently rekindled when the Christian pastor originally picked to deliver the inaugural benediction resigned from the post amid heavy criticism for a sermon he delivered in the 1990s describing homosexuality as a sin.

In his inaugural speech, Obama also emphasized the importance of protecting the most vulnerable in society.

Arguing that “every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity,” he stated that even the poorest of Americans should be secure, knowing that they are free and “equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.”

In addition, he highlighted America’s obligations “to all posterity,” ensuring, among other things, that children “know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.”

Returning to the nation’s founding documents, Obama urged that their words be taken seriously.

The task of our generation, he said, is “to make these words, these rights, these values – of life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – real for every American.”

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